Mayoral candidate Mike McGinn plans to put his pedal where his mouth is if he wins this November—at least according to a tale making its way through the ranks of the Seattle Police Department.
The story goes like this: McGinn struck up a conversation with one of the police officers assigned to the mayor's security detail at a campaign event during the primary. According to Seattle Police Officers' Guild president Rich O'Neill—who heard about the exchange directly from the officer, who declined to discuss the incident with The Stranger—McGinn told the officer that when he was mayor, there would "be some big changes" around the office. "That'll be gone," McGinn told the officer, pointing to the Toyota Highlander SUV used by Mayor Greg Nickels. "When I'm mayor, my security detail will bike with me."
The officer gave McGinn examples of some of the mayor's distant meeting destinations, including the Boeing facility in Everett, the legislature in Olympia, and Sea-Tac Airport, and told him it wouldn't be possible for him to bike everywhere.
McGinn disputes O’Neill’s account of the exchange—“It’s possible that I may have cracked a joke” to the officer, McGinn says—but he notes that he plans to “bike as much as possible” if elected. McGinn currently uses a Giant Lite electric bicycle to ride to campaign events and meetings around the city.
We looked at a day selected at random from Mayor Nickels's schedule to see if it would even be possible for a mayor to get around on a bicycle.
On May 21, Mayor Nickels made his first stop of the day at a transportation seminar at the Sheraton Hotel at 8:15 a.m., about 6 miles from McGinn's Greenwood home. By 9:00 a.m., Nickels was back in his office at City Hall (.5 mile). At 10:00 a.m., Nickels was at the Neighborhood Business District Awards at the Columbia City Theater, which would require McGinn to ride 5 miles along Rainier Avenue South, a harrowing route for cyclists in Seattle. By 11:30 a.m., Nickels was back at the Bell Harbor meeting facility on the waterfront (5.2 miles) for a meeting on the climate. After a leisurely hour at a lunchtime rally, Mayor Nickels returned to City Hall (1.2 miles) to meet with British ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald. Whew. Nickels then headed up the steep slopes of Capitol Hill to Seattle Central Community College (1 mile) for a Sound Transit walking tour, then to a Sound Transit corridor cleanup in the International District (3 miles). By 4:30 p.m., Nickels had logged more than 20 miles, but his day wasn't over yet. The mayor still had former SPD chief Gil Kerlikowske's going-away party at the Westin to attend (2.7 miles), a Washington Restaurant Association event at Wild Ginger (.3 mile), and the Seattle International Film Festival fourth annual Mayor's Awards at the Paramount Theatre (.5 mile). All told, in one day, a Mayor McGinn would have logged more than 25 miles on his bike and burned about 1,700 calories.
So could McGinn become Seattle's first two-wheeled mayor?
"It's a bizarre idea," one former bike cop told The Stranger, but "it's feasible."
This article has been updated since its original publication.